(some days ago…)
A low rumble mutes the car honks and the cries of children playing on the lane outside our house in Deir al Balah, central Gaza. The vaguely furnace-like sound distinguishes itself as an Israeli warplane flying over our skies, poisoning the mid-morning tranquility.
I’d been lost in typing my thoughts, almost oblivious to my surroundings: the Gaza Strip, where at any moment such a warplane’s roar erupts and where likewise any moment the deafening thud of its bomb vibrates through towns and cities and farmland.
But the rumble of the circling Israeli warplane snaps me back into reality, making the trivial all the more trivial, and the possible all the more possible.
Ripped from sleep by a loud explosion, which I later learn is in Nusseirat some kilometers north of us. Such is the power of the Israeli F-16 one-ton (or more) bombs that we feel it in Deir. Knowing better than to think it’s done with, we wait for the inevitable second blast, which comes within minutes, harder and louder, causing us instinctively to cover each other’s heads from potential debris and shrapnel. Thankfully for us we’re far enough away this time that there is none. After that second blast the possibility of further Israeli bombing, with no choice but to wait and deal with it (no one has bomb shelters or sirens in Gaza, its hit or be spared in this locked-down Strip).
I wake realizing the warplanes have been usurped by the aggravating whine of the UAVs, capable of surveying or bombing and my green ears are not well enough trained to hear the difference. But even without knowing which of the drones they are up there this morning, we’re all still under psychological attack, the knowledge that at any time Israel can (and will) bomb any area, any home kindergarten, mosque, car, and explain away later the “collateral damage”.
Reading the news online now I see Israel disapproves of the Hamas-Fatah moves toward reconciliation, Israel vowing to cut off water and electricity to Gaza.
[AFP] Israel warned on Saturday that it would cut the supply of water and electricity to the Gaza Strip if rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas form a unity government.
“The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the daily Yediot Aharonot website.
This, when Gaza’s aquifer has been rendered nearly defunct, with Gaza’s water almost completely undrinkable according to WHO standards. During the Israeli colonists days in Gaza (1967 to 2005), the illegal settlers used exponentially more water than Palestinians (as they continue to do in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem). In recent years, Israeli authorities have refused to allow the repair and expansion of Gaza’s sanitation systems and treatment plants, leaving sewage frequently spilling over and flooding residential areas and causing the partially and untreated sewage to be pumped into Gaza’s sea for want of holding space and treatment.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem notes on the issue of contaminated drinking water in Gaza:
“…high level of nitrates is liable to cause anemia among children and methemoglobinemia (“blue infants” syndrome) among infants, which is liable to lead to choking and death. A study published in 2007, in which a sample of 340 infants from Gaza were examined, found that almost half of them suffered from troubling symptoms of the syndrome.
The Palestinian Water Authority estimates that almost 40 percent of the incidence of disease in Gaza is related to polluted drinking water. According to international aid organizations, 20 percent of Gazan families have at least one child under age five who suffers from diarrhea as a result of polluted water. A UN study published in 2009 estimates that diarrhea is the cause of 12 percent of children’s deaths in Gaza. The lack of potable drinking water is liable to cause malnutrition in children and affect their physical and cognitive development.”
Now Israel wants to further collectively punish the 1.6 million Palestinians (half of whom are under 18) by denying them water altogether.
Israeli rights groups B’Tselem and Gisha both maintain that Israel continues to occupy the Gaza Strip, despite having pulled Israeli colonists out of Gaza in 2005 (while rapidly, massively expanding the Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem). In light of this, Israel is obliged to provide the basic human needs for the Palestinians of Gaza; instead, Israel actively and systematically denies Gaza’s population of almost every conceivable need, the latest being the threat of denying water to Gaza.
In June 2006, as part of a widespread military operation following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by armed militants who had infiltrated Israel from Gaza, the Israeli Air Force bombarded the power plant and destroyed its six transformers. The damage was repaired only partially and gradually, until, in December 2007, the plant reached a generation capacity of 80 MW, which could have reduced the electricity shortage to 9%. However, the power plant’s generation capacity is further limited because its functioning depends on the purchase of industrial diesel from Israel, which since 2007 has restricted the quantity of fuel it allows to be transferred to the Gaza Strip.
From June 2007 through June 2010, Israel allowed entry into Gaza only of goods “vital for the survival of the civilian population”. Israel even devised mathematical formulas determining the quantity and types of food Gaza residents would be permitted to purchase. These formulas were revealed following a petition submitted by Gisha under the Freedom of Information Act. The restrictions determined, for example, that Gaza residents were permitted to buy hummus, but not if it was topped with pine nuts or mushrooms. Paper, clothes and shoes were prohibited, as were tea and coffee during various periods.
The present policy continues to prohibit the entry of construction materials, on the grounds that Hamas could use these materials to build bunkers. This restriction is maintained despite the fact that building materials continue to enter Gaza through the tunnels. According to a United Nations report, more construction materials are brought into Gaza through the tunnels than through the crossings with Israel.
The prohibition on export of goods from Gaza is not based on concerns about the content of any particular shipment but rather is a sweeping restriction on all goods. Even when Israel has made an exception to the ban and permitted export of agricultural produce to Europe, as was the case during the recent winter season, it prevented Gaza residents from marketing the same products in Israel or the West Bank. This is in spite of the fact that prior to the imposition of restrictions on export, 85 percent of goods from Gaza marketed outside the Strip were sold in Israel and the West Bank. Demand for merchandise and agricultural produce from Gaza continues to exist in the West Bank and Israel (including goods that ultimately are to be marketed overseas by Israeli exporters).
Israel allows soccer players to cross from Gaza to the West Bank, but does not allow students from Gaza to attend universities in the West Bank. This prohibition has been in place since 2000.